A Look at How Congress Reached a Last-Minute Deal to Avoid a Shutdown

October 2, 2023

The federal government is open for business today after lawmakers pulled out a surprise last-minute deal to keep the lights on for the next 45 days. Here’s a look at what happened and what it means for the rest of the 2023 legislative calendar.

  • McCarthy swings eleventh-hour deal. After Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and his leadership team failed to come to an agreement on a GOP-only continuing resolution (CR), the Speaker put a 45-day stopgap on the floor that passed with overwhelming bipartisan support in both chambers. The measure, which keeps the government funded until Friday, November 17, includes $16 billion for disaster relief, but omits additional funding for Ukraine.
  • What this means for the Speaker. Speaker McCarthy’s standing with conservatives on the House Freedom Caucus is extremely shaky — as indicated by a forthcoming vote on a motion to vacate the speakership during this week’s session. Given the GOP’s four seat majority — as well as an increasing number of conservatives who have indicated they are willing to vote him out — Democratic votes will ultimately be key as to whether Speaker McCarthy keeps the gavel. Some lawmakers within the Democratic Caucus could look to leverage policy and procedural concessions from the speaker before offering their support. It is also possible that the speaker has earned the support of several Democrats already thanks to his last-minute bipartisan escape hatch.
  • What to watch moving forward. Regardless of whether Speaker McCarthy remains at his post, lawmakers will still be facing the same set of issues that have bogged down the appropriations process thus far. However, as demonstrated by this weekend’s CR — as well as the May 2023 debt ceiling agreement — House leadership has shown a willingness to compromise when push comes to shove to address pressing legislative deadlines. While leaders could choose to use this momentum to build support for a broader FY 2024 funding agreement before the November 17 deadline, another CR will likely be needed to carry the government through to the end of the year. Notably, funding for Ukraine is expected to weigh heavily on the next round of government spending talks. As such, leadership could look to craft a middle-of-the-road deal that includes extra funds for border security and fentanyl mitigation, as well as a commission to examine potential spending and national debt reforms, to shore up a robust bipartisan majority in both chambers. However, much remains in flux given the questions surrounding Speaker McCarthy’s future.